In his address on Hungary’s National Day, March 15, a holiday devoted to remembering Hungary’s fight for freedom and independence from the Austrians in 1848, Prime Minister Orbán explained the importance of these struggles for freedom, the revolutions of 1848 and 1956, to Hungarian identity:
“Life in Hungary today is a creation of the spiritual heirs and offspring of the ’48 and ’56 revolutions. […] the heartbeat of this revolutionary tradition moves and guides the nation’s political, economic and spiritual life: equality before the law, responsible government, a national bank, the sharing of burdens, respect for human dignity and the unification of the nation. Today, as then, the ideals of ’48 and ’56 are the pulse driving the life force of the nation, and the intellectual and spiritual blood flow of the Hungarian people.”
This year’s commemoration of the 1956 Uprising will be celebrated through dozens of projects carried out over the course of the year by historians, civic groups and NGOs, selected through a public competition administered by the Central Eastern European Foundation for Historical and Social Research. Projects include publications, education programs, public memorials and monuments, exhibitions, documentary film production, conferences, art and cultural activities and more.
A jury composed of 25 of Hungary’s leading historians and cultural ambassadors have begun reviewing the nearly 600 applications already received, and some have already been selected for support.
Some of the first of these commemorative displays have already begun to appear on the streets of Budapest. Here are a few that have gone up recently.
“Egy nép azt mondta: elég volt.” “A people said: that’s enough.” Sándor Márai, Hungarian writer and journalist.
This image of Péter Mansfeld appears on Irinyi street. Mansfeld was the youngest victim of the Communist crackdown following the uprising. Because minors under the age of 18 could not be given the death penalty, the Communist courts waited until Mansfeld turned 18 before they convicted and executed him.
“Boots Square” quickly became the name for the square where a giant, 18 meter-high Stalin statue had stood. It was pulled down by the revolutionaries, and only the boots remained standing.
Commander of the revolutionaries that fought in Budapest’s 13th District, Ferenc Csizmadi was a transportation worker and former boxing champion. He was executed after the revolution was put down.
For a nation still coping with the after-effects of nearly half a century of occupation and a destructive Communist system, this 60th anniversary is another important step in coming to terms with the past and, most importantly, celebrating the heroes that fought for their people’s freedom.